The Portland Trail Blazers dropped to 1-10 away from the friendly confines of Moda Center with a 129-107 loss to the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City on Monday. The defeat also put the team back below .500 at 10-11 overall on the season. After hanging around in the first half, the wheels fell off the bus for Portland in the third quarter as the Jazz opened on a 16-3 run after the break. They ended up with 41 points in the frame and cruised to the easy victory.
Donovan Mitchell led the charge for Utah with a game-high 30 points. The Jazz also got a tremendous performance from Rudy Gobert (21 points, 16 rebounds) and Jordan Clarkson, who chipped in 22 off the bench. Jusuf Nurkic had 24 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Blazers, who also got 24 from Anfernee Simons and 19 from CJ McCollum. Damian Lillard struggled through a 4-12 shooting performance to finish with just 11 points.
For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, see our Instant Recap.
Here were the key storylines from Monday’s game:
If you missed the first half, you might find it hard to believe that the Jazz started the game just 6-20 from three-point land. Things shifted dramatically after halftime, however, as Utah saw a modest four-point lead balloon with a 16-3 run to start the third quarter. They caught fire from distance and took advantage of quick, purposeful ball movement to send the Blazer defenders scrambling and generate quality, in-rhythm looks. The Jazz ended up going 9-14 from deep in the third and finished the night 19-46 (41%) overall, despite the dreadful start.
While the shots weren’t falling early, Utah’s passing was on display all game. The Jazz ended up with 31 assists on 47 made baskets, compared to 19 on 42 for Portland. This opened the floor for Mitchell and others to attack the rim, which they did with great success. All told, six Jazz players finished in double-figure scoring. Every Utah starter but Mike Conley connected on at least five field goals in the game.
Big Man Battle
Much of Utah’s first half offense revolved around Gobert, who excelled in the pick-and-roll and especially as a lob threat at the rim. The Blazers had no answer for the lengthy Frenchman, who ended up a hyper-efficient 9-11 from the field. On the other side, Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic was a significant reason the Blazers trailed by just four at the break. Nurk had 13 in the first half on 5-7 shooting, and sparked a Blazers run late in the second quarter. He also held his own on the glass, particularly on the offensive end of the floor to create a number of second chance opportunities.
After an uneventful third shift to start the third quarter, Nurkic again got things rolling in the fourth. In fact, for an over five minute stretch in the final frame, he was the only Blazer to score. He had 10 points from the 7:27 mark to the 4:14 mark. Dennis Smith Jr. finally snapped the streak on a free throw with 2:16 remaining and the game well out of reach. On an otherwise disappointing night, Nurk’s production was a definite bright spot.
The Blazers were without starter Norman Powell due to a quad injury. Tony Snell took his place in the starting lineup, playing a season-high 16 minutes and turning in a solid performance with eight points on 3-7 shooting. However, the biggest beneficiary of Norm’s absence was Simons, who continued a red-hot shooting streak from Saturday’s game against the Golden State Warriors. Ant went 10-15 from the floor for a season-high 24 points, at times single-handedly keeping an uninspiring Blazer offense afloat. Simons has had a solid season as Portland’s fourth guard, but showed again he is more than capable of taking on a bigger role when needed.
The Blazers return home, where they are 9-1 on the season, to face Cade Cunningham and the Detroit Pistons tomorrow night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT. The team will honor the 1990 Western Conference championship squad at the game.